Ready to take your new service to the world?
Over the last few weeks, we’ve looked at a handful of techniques you can use to communicate more clearly about your product or service as you launch it:
- a unique brand vocabulary
- SEO-related copy techniques
- interface text and CTAs
- readability tools
- benefit and feature differentiation.
And we’ve seen how you can build all these into a concise but compelling launch website.
Now, you may have done all these things as well as you can. But does that mean the copy you’ve written about your new product or service is guaranteed to communicate what you want it to?
Well, no. But there are a few steps you can take to get an idea of how well your copy succeeds. The first one? A copy review.
Did you just roll your eyes? Don’t worry: the copy review is less hassle than you think.
The ten-minute review
That’s right: your review of your homepage copy need take no more than ten minutes.
After all, you don’t want your users spending half an hour wading through copy and videos and free-trial-live-tour-click-to-chat messaging before they get it. Right?
So why would it take you that long? Let’s get this done.
1. Come with fresh eyes
Don’t try to review your copy straight after you’ve written it.
Give it at least a half-day (if you’re on a super-tight timeframe), but ideally, leave a day or three in between the writing and the review.
This will make sure you’re in a different headspace—and that you have the much-touted “fresh eyes”—with which to review your copy.
Better yet, try consciously to put yourself in your customers’ shoes before you begin.
2. Print the laid-out page (1 minute)
Yes, I did just say the P word.
Why would you print your web copy? After all, your users are going to read it on-screen, so you should review it in the same environment, right?
Not quite. The reason you need to print the page is the same reason you’re reviewing the laid-out page, rather than going over your copy as you drafted it in Word or Docs.
Because you’re looking at how it communicates to customers.
You need to see the text in the context of the page layout and visuals. But to review the coherence of the messaging overall—to make sure the thing’s complete, and you’re not missing anything along the way—you need to see it all at once, in full.
Of course, you should also review your content on-screen. But the full review starts with a printed page.
3. Take it in (2 minutes)
After all the work you’ve done to create the page, you’ll know in your own mind exactly what you’re trying to communicate to readers about your brand, and your product or service.
So take the page in in its entirety. Look it over; read it over; scan; skip. Whatever you want to do to take the page in, do it.
Now, as a user, how excited would you be about responding to the page’s CTA after taking in this page?
Are the key messages you wanted to communicate being expressed clearly? Do you feel they’re coming across the right way—in a friendly tone of voice, for example, rather than as directions or instructions?
What feeling does the page give you overall? Does it say what you want to say about your brand and this product or service?
You’ve just answered a bunch of important questions about messaging and sense. Rather than trying to solve any problems you’ve uncovered, make note of them and move on.
4. Spot problems (3 minutes)
It’s time to get a bit more specific. Go over the page again, asking yourself these kinds of questions:
- Does anything look weird?
- Does anything sound funny?
- Does anything grate on me?
The idea here is to tap into your gut feel and hunches. You’re not looking for issues at pixel level: you’re looking at issues of visual communication.
These questions can turn up all kinds of problems—from layout issues, to mismatches between the sense of copy and its accompanying images, to clumsy expression.
On the page itself, mark up those things that are bothering you. Again, you don’t have to have solutions just yet—the important thing is to note any problems.
5. Check consistency (4 minutes)
At this point, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of the key aspects of your communication.
Check firstly that you’ve used your brand vocabulary consistently.
If you haven’t, look at why that is. It might be natural error or personal preference, or it might be that a word you’ve included in there isn’t as useful or natural as another would be, in which case, your brand vocab may need revising.
Mark up any corrections you need to make.
Next, make sure your messaging is complete. Think about the things you wanted to say when you started writing the page. Have you communicated all the benefits you want to? What about features—are they easily accessible?
Is there a logical flow to the page, and between each portion of it? What about between each sentence? Does each piece of information build on the others—and is the page scannable enough for each to succeed independently, too?
Is there anything that’s missing? Now that you’re seeing the page in its entirety, can you think of anything that customers are likely to want to know that you’ve left out?
This review will help you make the page as communicative and targeted as possible, and let you work out how to make ancillary information readily accessible if it’s not to be included within the copy of the home page.
Finally, look at your messaging and see that you’ve included links wherever they’re appropriate.
If I’m working with an unusual or specific brand vocabulary, I might link key terminology to FAQs that explain those concepts. This can be especially helpful if you’re targeting users who are new to the product category or the brand.
Make sure that your CTAs look clickable, and that the way clickable elements are presented is consistent, too.
That’s it: your ten-minute review is done. At this point, you should have a printed copy of your home page that’s got notes and scribbles here and there.
You’ll also have a good idea of how well you think the page communicates what different types of users want to know—and feel—before they’ll respond to your CTA.
And you might have a few things to tweak or revisit before you launch, too.
Of course, there’s one issue that we haven’t discussed in this post—an elephant in the room, if you will—and that’s spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Did you check that in your review? Are there errors you’re overlooking … and will your users pick them up and point them out?
We’ll avoid that unfortunate eventuality next week, when we see just how much the rules of language actually matter in the online context. In the meantime, let us know in the comments what issues your homepage review turns up.
Georgina has more than fifteen years' experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. With a background in marketing and a passion for words, the time Georgina spent with companies like Sausage Software and sitepoint.com cemented her lasting interest in the media, persuasion, and communications culture.